Should We Use The Word Texture When Talking About Afro Hair?

Re-thinking texture – an all-inclusive approach to hairdressing with celebrity hairdresser Vernon François

“As hairdressers, it’s important to understand the meaning of the word texture.  All hair has texture, so using it in a general sense is confusing.  Redefining our communication to include descriptors such as Coily Texture, Kinky Texture, Wavy Texture, Straight Texture and Curly Texture, can help identify all hair patterns more clearly and is much more inclusive,” explains Vernon François, celebrity hairstylist, educator and founder of Vernon François Haircare for all hair textures with an emphasis on curly and afro hair.

François recently joined the Sam Villa team for a discussion on re-thinking texture.  “We need to challenge ourselves to remove culture and race from texture.  Think about how versatile you are in your artistry… does that versatility really include all hair textures?  It shouldn’t be an option… we need to work together to bring curly and kinky hair textures into the mainstream,” says François.

Vernon at work

New terms for afro hair

Irene Shelley, Black Beauty & Hair’s editor-in-chief agrees that using the term ‘texture’ when talking about afro hair can result in ambiguity that can eclipse afro hair. “All hair is essentially textured, so you have to be more specific when talking about what that texture is. As more people are mixing, we are looking to find other terms to describe the resulting mixed textures. So, you’re hearing terms like ‘African descent hair,’ ‘hair of African origin’ or ‘textured hair.’ Textured hair seems to be the catch-all phrase that everyone from influencers to haircare brands are now using to describe the panoply of afro hair textures.

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“One international hair competition doesn’t have an Afro category, instead they have a ‘Texture’ category, which in the past used to attract afro entries. But if you take a look at that category now, you’ll see mostly Caucasian textured hair entries.”

Vernon’s tips for working with afro coily and kinky textures

  • Ask guests to be honest about what they want to actually achieve.  Wigs and weaves are great for expressing personality, but there’s nothing more beautiful than someone who honours what they were born with – they have an inner confidence and can carry off any hair texture. 
  • Whether on set or at the chair, start by creating an interesting shape. Contour the neckline by pinning hair up to create a sexy silhouette, from that point, anything can be done with the top.  Use smaller U-pins, they have more grip…wiggle them in, anchor in a braid (or other hair), and then lift up and push in.
  • Don’t go for perfection, it looks uncomfortable. Be free and really get in there with your hands, spread fingers and don’t be afraid to stretch and pull the texture out.
  • An afro pick is a must-have tool, get one with longer teeth. When picking, don’t pull the comb all the way through, use it to plump up the roots while preserving texture on the mids to ends.
  • Don’t be afraid of frizz – frizz is volume, it’s a major player in helping to give hair shape and personality. Learn to work with frizz, not against it, and prime all hair with Vernon François Mist Nourishing Water before styling to hydrate and revive the pattern of all hair textures.
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Re-thinking texture video

  • If texture is on point but the length needs to be shorter, finger-tease.  Hold a section of hair at ends with one hand and gently push hair towards the head with pointer and thumb to shrink the length and create a really beautiful frizz. 
  • Sometimes the most beautiful texture is a mix of 3-4 textures, so if using wigs and weaves, get multiple versions.  Most people have multiple natural textures too – straighter around the front and looser on the sides.
  • When drying kinky hair, spray at arm’s length with Redken Triple Take 32 for maximum flexibility and use a Sam Villa Vision Blow Dryer (without nozzle on medium/cold heat and max airflow) and rotate wrist to create a circular stream of air that cultivates the texture pattern. This technique creates volume at the root and fluffy, vibrant, youthful volume on the mids and ends.

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